State officials say Sioux City may be in line for a new manufacturing plant.
Over 1400 workers will be out of a job in mid-April when the John Morrell plant in Sioux City closes. Governor Culver and other state officials plan to be in Sioux City this Thursday to meet with local economic development officials.
“That might be an opportunity for us to transition some of the workforce into these green collar jobs if we can land one of the wind energy manufacturers,” Culver says, “a similar situation to what happened in Newton, for example.”
After Maytag operations ended in Newton, a plant that makes the towers for wind turbines started operations. Culver says Sioux City has a number of selling points to businesses involved in making turbine blades or the towers to support the turbines.
“With Interstate 29 and terrific…transportation options — they also have Class A rail lines — they are in the epicenter, if you will, of the upper Midwestern wind belt,” Culver says. “And so a number of companies have taken a very close look at Sioux City for all of those reasons.”
Last year, Siemens Energy considered Sioux City as the site for a new wind turbine equipment plant, but chose Hutchinson, Kansas instead. Jeff Rosate of the Iowa Department of Economic Development says that put Sioux City on the map when it comes to the wind energy industry.
“The experience last year with Sioux City coming in second for the Siemens nacell facility is actually a testament to Sioux City and the State of Iowa and that was recognized by the industry and so what you find is within the wind energy sector…there’s a lot of interest, well, Sioux City must have done something right to become one of top two potential locations,” Rosate says. “And because of that, we have had a number of other clients ask us and have interest within the community and so we are working with the Siouxland Chamber and with the City of Sioux City prospects.”
Last year, state and local officials indicated three other companies — besides Siemens — were considering Sioux City as a location for a plant. There are nine plants in Iowa making the blades and other components of wind turbines, but the Siemens plant would have been the first in Iowa to make nacelles — the housing that sits atop a turbine and covers the gear box. Rosate, from the Iowa Department of Economic Development, expects to hear within the next year whether another wind energy company will choose to build in Sioux City.
“It depends on the timeline with the client,” Rosate says, “but as the national economy recovers, hopefully those wind energy companies will make decisions sooner rather than later.”
State and local officials offered Siemens a package of tax incentives for construction of a new plant on property near the Sioux City airport. The governor says starting in 2005 Sioux City leaders, along with state officials, tried to offer incentives to Smithfield to build a new meatpacking plant in Sioux City.
“That was the problem in large part with the Morrell plant. It was old and outdated,” Culver says. “In 2005 and 2006 there were extensive discussions. They weren’t able to put together a agreement. Those conversations were picked up again in 2007 and ended in the middle part of 2008, again, with no agreement.”
According to the governor, Smithfield’s decision to shut down the plant had more to do with the national economy than with the facility’s age.